CONWAY After leading almost the entire game, the Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team saw its advantage just about gone and the momentum swinging in Radford’s favor late in the second half Saturday.
But sophomore guard Warren Gillis let the Chanticleers’ slide go no further.
Quiet for most of the game, Gillis drained a timely 3-pointer from the top of the key and then worked his way to the foul line for two free throws to help the Chants start to pull away again on their way to a 62-52 win over the visiting Highlanders inside The HTC Center.
“You have to keep your composure to be successful,” CCU coach Cliff Ellis said. “I think you choke when you don’t have composure, when you don’t concentrate, when you’re not confident and when you’re not committed. If you don’t have those four things, you’re going to choke. ... They didn’t.”
Fortunately for the Chants (10-10, 5-4 Big South), this one came at home.
After losing again on the road Wednesday and seeing its record away from Conway fall to 1-8, Coastal again showed it plays with a little more confidence and swagger on its home court.
Senior guard Anthony Raffa led the way with 22 points, while senior point guard Kierre Greenwood added 15 and Gillis finished with eight -- all but one coming in the final 6:02 of the second half as the Chants improved to 9-2 at home for the season. Gillis also notched eight rebounds while freshman forward Michel Enanga had a game-high 11 boards and three blocks.
“We have all our fans here, they still believe in us. We can not just let them down,” Enanga said of the team’s home success. “They just push us.”
The Highlanders (10-13, 4-5) trailed by as many as 12 points early in the second half, but they drew to within 42-40 with 6:32 to play before Gillis’ five-point flurry. A 3-pointer by freshman Ya Ya Anderson later cut Coastal’s lead to 55-51 with 1:18 remaining, but the Chants sealed the game at the foul line while making 7-of-8 shots on a day when they shot just 18-of-31 overall from the stripe.
As for Gillis, he was 0-of-5 from the field before his clutch contributions down the stretch.
“I just wanted to focus on doing what I could do,” Gillis said. “I took it in a couple times early and got my shot blocked. I was forcing it too much. I just wanted to focus in on getting open shots, and I saw some opportunities that I took advantage of.”
Junior center El Hadji Ndieguene did not play for Coastal due to recurring headaches and his status remains up in the air. Freshman Uros Ljeskovic (four points and three rebounds) took Ndieguene’s spot in the starting lineup, while Enanga and freshman forward Badou Diagne combined for 19 rebounds in his stead. Ndieguene, Coastal’s leading rebounder at 7.2 per game, had started the team’s first 19 games. He battled headaches last year as after-effects of a car accident and took a break from the sport before joining the Chants this season.
“He’s seeing a doctor Monday. He’ll be evaluated,” Ellis said. “There’s a neurologist that’s looking at him. He’s having recurring headaches. They want him with a cardiologist Monday to make sure everything’s OK. ... We’ll know more Monday, but hopefully we’ll be able to get him back. But until the doctors release him, we can’t play him.”
With or without him, the Chants will put their home prowess to the test Wednesday as they host Big South-leading Charleston Southern.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.